Understand the role of risk assessment in enabling a person-centred approach

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

Assessing and managing risks is an essential legal responsibility in care settings as they can be used to manage risk sensibly, protect and safeguard individuals and promote an individual’s rights.

Some of the different uses of risk assessments include:

  • Universal risk assessments cover common risks to everyone in the workplace. Examples include a security risk assessment to reduce the risk of intruders accessing the premises or a risk assessment on slipping/tripping hazards in the workplace.
  • Common risks to individuals receiving care such as scalding or using cleaning products incorrectly
  • Specific risks to individual staff such as an employee that is pregnant or has recently returned to work following a surgical procedure
  • Specific risks to individuals receiving care such as an individual with a history of arson setting a fire or an individual with epilepsy having a seizure

The aim of risk assessments is to take a look at a situation and identify what the realistic risks of harm are and take sensible and proportional action to minimise them.

It is a care workers responsibility to ensure that any real risks are assessed to reduce the potential of harm and protect the individuals that they support. However, it is also important to understand that all individuals have the right to take risks in their day to day lives and person-centred values such as choice, respect and independence must also be promoted. Therefore, it is important to strike a reasoned balance between the potential risks and the rights of the individual. If risk assessments are performed then people may come to harm, however if an organisation is too risk-averse then people would not be able to do anything and their independence and ultimately their wellbeing would suffer (for example, imagine telling somebody that they can’t play football because of the risk of injury).

Risk assessments should, where possible, be completed in collaboration with the individual that they are intended for so that their views and wishes are taken into account and they can have their voice heard. This ensures that a person-centred approach is taken with the risk-assessing and risk-taking process.

Risk assessments should be reviewed regularly and, if necessary, updated to reflect any changes in the situations or the individuals that they cover. For example, an individual may have originally had a risk assessment around their mobility whilst recovering from knee surgery but as their knee heals and their mobility improves then the risks would decrease. Conversely, if an individual has dementia and their condition has worsened, the risk assessment would need to be reviewed and updated to cater for additional risks.

Risk assessments should also be reviewed to ensure that they are working properly. Maybe the first iteration of a risk assessment was too risk averse and was severely restricting an individual from living their life the way that they wanted to so it may need to be updated to make it less stringent. Or some potential risks may not have been envisaged in the original risk assessment but have since come to light. This would need to be reflected in the review.

Risk assessments should be thought of as working documents that are regularly updated. How often they are reviewed and updated will depend on the particular risk assessment, however it is recommended that it is done at least annually and in many cases much more frequently.